Challenges in implementing Free Online Education in Developing Nations like India

MOOCs (Massively Open Online Course) have certainly created a buzz about how it has the potential to change the face of higher

education as we know it. While a lot is being done to assess the impact and efficacy, I just thought what would it take to crea

te a similar model to work in Developing Countries or specifically in areas where the current MOOCs have not been able to create a mark.

I understand that some of the MOOCs like Coursera, Venturelab are popular in Countries like, India, Pakistan, Srilanka, African Countries etc too but its not reaching to the masses, internet penetration could be one of the problems however its increasing.

The premise on which any online course work is the learner is motivated, and I feel there are enough motivated learners in these areas as well.

(Photo credit: silkolive)

I believe we just need to figure out the hindrances in adoption and find a solution. A few challenges which I have identified are,

  • Localization of content – The west generates enough content, however not enough localized content in India is being generated for now
  • Contextualization – An Indian learner might learn better with a content generated with respect to India context rather than US context
  • Figure out the motivation factors – Acquiring Knowledge has been one of the main motivation factors however certificates, job assistance are some of the key motivation factors in countries like India
  • Assessing interests of local universities to do so – A few universities in India including the IITs have some open content but creating a pedagogy model to engage participants would go a long way
  • How would teachers react to such a initiative by their universities? – Teachers in the west have shown tremendous interest towards such inititiatives, hence more and more experts, teachers and univerties are coming forward to conduct free online courses. This still needs to be assessed for teachers from the sub-continent
  • Create awareness about free and open education – Not many students know about this,
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Success & Failure of MOOCs – Learning from a recent course from CourseEra

A recent course on “Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Application” at Coursera was taken off in a weeks’ time from its launch, apparently because of some implementation problems. It was disappointing especially because the course itself was on planning & application of online education.

In one of my earlier posts I have highlighted the success factors for designing a robust learning environment. Lets look at this case closely and make an attempt to analyse the success and failure of such programs.

I think the most important aspect of success of such programs is designing the pedagogy to create an engaging model for self paced learning. Such engagements can be created in many ways, first, content and the delivery style, which has been very aptly demonstrated by Khan Academy among others.

Second the engagements should be made seamless by appropriate use of technology, like the user experience, design, group engagements etc. Discussions among participation forms a key part of the learning process and the first problem users faced was “How to join a group”, which highlights a flaw in user experience.

Third the pedagogical model or steps in the learning process, I felt the model should have been more challenging. Sharing video lectures and having a quiz after you watch all the videos is suddenly becoming an old school thought. Appropriate pedagogy model like the ones used by Venture Program was much more engaging, like learning videos supplemented by activity based  learning (with a combination of individual and group activities) for all the weeks, pointers to resources outside the learning environment and using practical examples.

Lastly, simple things like highlighting course progress in a simple graphical way, easy to understand clear instructions for assignments and pre-defined deadlines will go a long way in improving the quality.

Personal disappointment for me: I met wonderful people from around the globe and started engaging with them on serious discussions about Online Education. Some of them have been educators for over 15 years and was eagerly looking forward to learn from there experience, however the abrupt end of this course didn’t allow many of us to move our conversations to other mediums like mail, social media.

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